By Tyler Trent
Brandon Cambridge comes on for his MLS debut (Photo credit Taylor Banner/Charlotte FC)
In the midst of the 2023 MLS SuperDraft where Charlotte traded for the number one pick and also selected the 14th overall pick, the signing of Brandon Cambridge went under the radar for many supporters. That same day, Charlotte FC announced the signing of Cambridge from the Vancouver Whitecaps Academy in exchange for just $50,000 in general allocation money (GAM).
Fresh off a very strong season at the University of Portland, 20-year-old Cambridge looked like a promising prospect in a team needing production from the wing. While Cambridge didn’t get a chance to start with the first team in 2023, he found his place as a starter for Crown Legacy FC in MLS Next Pro and quickly ensured everyone knew his name.
Growing Up On The Move
Brandon Cambridge was born in New York when his mom was visiting his aunt. At the time, his parents were completing medical school in South Africa. Cambridge grew up in South Africa, getting to experience the beautiful game in a country that also hosted the men’s World Cup during his time there, triggering his interest in the sport. Cambridge first started playing soccer in South Africa where all his classmates would play at lunchtime. While he couldn’t make it to a match, Cambridge still looks back on the period fondly.
At nine years old, Cambridge made the move to Canada with his family after they finished medical school. After arriving in Saskatchewan, the Cambridge family quickly realized the cold wasn’t for them before moving to Vancouver nine months later. They loved Vancouver, and Cambridge remained there until attending the University of Portland in nearby Oregon. Cambridge joined the Vancouver Whitecaps Academy and played with them from 11 years old until he went to college.
Arriving at the University of Portland in 2020, Cambridge was met with a disrupted season due to COVID-19 but was able to play in nine matches scoring four goals and adding two assists that spring. After his first year at Portland, Cambridge joined the USL League Two team PDX FC. While at PDX FC, Cambridge played with current Charlotte FC and Crown Legacy FC teammate Nick Scardina. Cambridge would also play against Scardina in college games as Scardina attended the University of Washington.
Cambridge celebrates a goal (Photo credit University of Portland Athletics)
Coming back for his second season, Cambridge continued to adjust to the college game playing 15 matches that season. In 2022, Cambridge broke through, starting every match as the team went to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. That season, Cambridge scored 11 goals and provided seven assists.
The Move to Charlotte
Cambridge's numbers and on-field talent caught the attention of Charlotte FC. The team took the opportunity to sign him to a contract outside the draft system as a homegrown player. Cambridge continues to climb the ranks. He regularly trains with the Charlotte FC first team and has been a part of the match-day squad. On April 8, 2023, Cambridge made his MLS debut on the road against Real Salt Lake. This marked a huge moment in his young career.
“I'd say making my MLS debut is my favorite moment in my career because it's something I've looked forward to for so many years. It’s something I've worked toward, and now that I've achieved it, I just want more,” Cambridge commented on his achievement.
While this was one of Cambridge's main goals for the year, he is hungry to achieve more than just a debut this season. “It's funny when you first achieve a goal, especially for me. I feel like I'm really happy, but then it's like, ‘oh, now I can get more from this,’” said Cambridge on further goals for the season.
One of those goals is to continue his progress this season. “One of my goals for this season is to break into the team a little more and start getting more minutes and show that I can be an influential part in the team,” said Cambridge. Cambridge specifically mentioned using the U.S. Open Cup as a platform to showcase his skills and what he can contribute to the first team. In his first match US Open Cup match against Tormenta FC, Cambridge was an early substitute after captain Kamil Jóźwiak picked up an injury in the first half. Cambridge took that opportunity to show his skills out wide, dribbling past players, combining with Jaylin Lindsey, and providing the game-winning assist on a platter to Enzo Copetti. Throughout the game, Cambridge showed a lot of positive qualities that will impress the Charlotte FC staff.
Cambridge has shown a lot of confidence on the pitch this year for Crown Legacy FC. He often takes opponents on in 1v1 situations and has scored both of his penalty kicks this season, including one in the shootout against Huntsville City FC.
Cambridge said that wasn’t always the case for him. When he joined the Whitecaps Academy, it was a big step up that took some adjustment. Cambridge said he eventually learned that going into a game nervous is just going to make it worse. While he mentioned nerves are inevitable before the match, he says he has learned to control them and instead use them to his benefit. “I'm more excited than afraid if anything,” said Cambridge.
While Cambridge is making great progress on his goals for this season, he also has the ambition to play on the national stage. With citizenship for both the United States and Canada, Cambridge has the opportunity to earn a spot with either team. “I think it's a good goal for me to build toward. Now that I'm in an MLS environment, it's attainable,” said Cambridge.
Growing up, Cambridge enjoyed watching a lot of players, specifically wingers. “I watched a lot of Cristiano; that was my guy for a while. Obviously, once Mbappe broke through, I’ve watched him a lot as well. Vinicius Jr. is another player that is very talented.”
With split duty between Charlotte FC and Crown Legacy, Cambridge shared that the first team guys have welcomed him and other young players. “That's the thing with some first teams. You get some guys that maybe think they're too big to talk to the young guys,” Cambridge commented. However, that has been the opposite of his experience with Charlotte FC. Cambridge specifically mentioned Brandt Bronico and Jaylin Lindsey who have helped him see what it’s like to be a professional.
Off The Pitch
When he’s not playing, Cambridge enjoys keeping up with Liverpool and has been a fan for a long time. Cambridge also enjoys hanging out with friends, whether it's going for walks or going for dinner. “After training, we have so much downtime. It's easy to just kind of sit in your room and watch Netflix; after a while, it gets pretty old. I think especially now that the weather in Charlotte's as good as it is, going for walks around Freedom Park or just getting food with friends are two of my main hobbies,” Cambridge shared.
Growing up, Cambridge played basketball and followed football, but as he’s grown older, he mainly focuses on soccer only now. On game day, you will likely catch him listening to fellow Canadian Drake to get worked up for a match. When asked if he had anything he wanted people to know about him, Cambridge shared, “I'm a pretty open book.”